Summit Suds: New year, new beer
Beer bottles receive a fresh look in Colorado beer book
The humble beer bottle is often not thought of as anything more than a drinking vessel. Yet readers of “Take One Down Pass It Around: Adventure Into Colorado Beer” will learn to appreciate the glasses as they view them in a new light.
The book by Colorado Springs artist Ceil Horowitz features 99 real bottles of beer — and one fictional bottle labeled with the Colorado state seal — painted in an abstract, impressionistic manner. The project is a celebration of the state and the local craft beer industry, especially the artistry and camaraderie of the brewers.
“It’s a wonderful way of meeting people and honoring them,” Horowitz said. “To me, they’re the heroic people. They’re brewers, but they’re heroic. They’re trying their hardest, and it’s a pleasure to try and honor that. I see the small things in life as sacred and precious.”
Horowitz knew she wanted to be an artist since she was young. She studied painting at the Kansas City Art Institute and Hunter College in New York in addition to honing her craft with creative people such as Linda Scott, Ellen O’Brien and Floyd Tunson.
“Painting really spoke to me,” Horowitz said. “I liked it because there’s almost nothing between you and the making of the art.”
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However, the medium hasn’t been without its challenges, which Horowitz enjoys so that the work remains interesting and fun. One hurdle is that about 20 years ago she taught herself to paint with her left hand due to rheumatoid arthritis. She’s had about 10 surgeries on her hands because of the condition. Horowitz could switch to another art form, but she prefers the difficulty of painting.
“Painting is the hardest for me because there’s no instruction book,” Horowitz said. Every time I face a new canvas, I have no idea how its going to go. I just jump in. That’s really a pleasure, and it’s really discouraging when you don’t do well with it.”
The project started at Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs in 2012, when Horowitz wanted to do more still life and her friends had beer on the brain. The first piece became the label for the brewery’s 10 Minutes of Pleasure Berliner weisse.
“Take One Down Pass It Around: Adventure Into Colorado Beer” by Ceil Horowitz
Bijou Artbooks, 2019
144 pages, $24.99
“At the end, (owner) Jason (Yester) said, ‘I’ll pay you $200 for the label or you can have two cases of bombers,’” Horowitz said. “I was like, ‘I’ll take bombers!'”
Another temporal challenge is that Horowitz sits on-site to paint en plein air, becoming part of the crew and taking in the sights, sounds and smells over the course of eight to 10 hours of painting. She could take a reference photo and paint later in her studio, but she feels she’d then lose the magic.
“A photograph locks a three-dimensional image into two dimensions,” Horowitz said. “It tells you everything you have to do in it and is more paint-by-numbers. All of the shapes and colors are confined for you, which I find constricts the painting. When I’m painting over eight hours and the brewers are moving, I might get 10 different positions into my abstract movement of a person whereas a photograph could never get it.”
Though researching bottles took months, Horowitz’s journey has had her paint some of the only bottles ever produced by breweries like Oskar Blues Brewery and Wynkoop Brewing Co.
When she was just about halfway through, she visited Summit County in 2013 to capture the local scene, including a brewery that no longer exists. Regionally, she painted bottles from Breckenridge Brewery, Dillon Dam Brewery and the now-defunct Backcountry Brewery in Summit County. She also did Eagle County’s Crazy Mountain Brewery and Bonfire Brewing.
She sometimes picks a bottle based on the contents — she’s fan of darker beers. Some days it’s the label that speaks to her, and other times the brewery picks for Horowitz. As for the location, she’ll paint wherever feels right. That could be lying down in a grain room of a brewery, staging Bristol Brewing’s Winter Warlock on Pikes Peak or enjoying the brewery’s Laughing Lab in the bar of The Broadmoor hotel. She painted a bottle from Verboten on railroad tracks — on which she had to once quickly relocate to avoid an oncoming train — and a bottle of Bristol’s Venetucci Pumpkin Ale on a farm.
After working on other projects, like her series of painting people in the subways of New York, revisiting breweries to reach her 100-bottle goal and fundraising publishing costs, the book was released in fall 2019. Along with full-page artwork, the book contains a few lines of poetry that explain the scene. Like the abstract paintings, she feels the verse captures the mood better than plain prose.
Canned beer wasn’t as popular when she started as it is now — and it doesn’t have a catchy song — but Horowitz might make a sequel book featuring aluminum in the future, though likely in a different medium.
“The can is too opaque, so abstract-wise, it was too plain and not as exciting for me to paint,” Horowitz said. “Whereas with the bottle, I get the reflection and things are much more abstracted.”
Whatever she paints, she’s just happy to keep painting.
“I think of us little humans as so precious, and our lives are so precious,” Horowitz said. “Being able to lift your hand to your chin, being able to paint, is such a delight. I just hope I live till 110, and I’ll keep doing it.”
Jefferson Geiger is the arts & entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News and managing editor for Everything Summit. Have a question about beer? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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